Does Nintendo DS Mod Chip Pose a Threat?

How much of a threat are mod chips to game publishers?

Quite a big one, according to U.K. newspaper The Independent. A lengthy article from today’s edition deals primarily with a Nintendo DS mod chip known as the R4:

The R4 is a tiny Chinese-made device – costing around £14 – that for more than seven million owners of Nintendo’s hand-held console, the DS, has blown wide open its capabilities. Combined with a small memory card and plugged into the back of the DS, it enables the console to play MP3s and videos, as well as store copies of games you already own.


Crucially, however, it also enables the user to play pirated games from the internet [which] can be downloaded for free. Add to this that it’s simple to use, and available through retailers such as Amazon, and you can see why the R4 and devices similar to it are bringing video game console piracy to the mainstream.

Enabling a DS to play digital music and video is a wonderful thing. Obviously, playing pirated games is not.

In mentioning Amazon, the article is believed to be refering to Amazon UK. Mod chips are illegal in the United States under the terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). An English appeals court, however, held recently that the devices do not infringe on copyrights in and of themselves.

On the other side of the coin, British parent Nick Welsh explains why the R4 is attractive:

The trouble with kids is you pay £20 or £30 for a game, and they could only play it once. Let’s say I sit down and download 10 new games, the way it ends up is they’ll only really play one or two or those, and the others get replaced. I wouldn’t be able to afford that number of games.


You can have 70 or 80 games on a 2GB card, and they’re all on the back of the machine. There’s no fiddling around with cartridges – it’s all there to hand… If there was some sort of iTunes equivalent where it was relatively easy and you could try a game for a week for a quid, and pay another four quid to keep it, then I think it’s likely I would use it.

In addition to publishers, some game retailers are concerned about the popularity of the R4, which they link to declining sales of DS game cartridges.

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  1. Override367 says:

    I wouldn’t have a supercard (its like an R4) if my ds had those functions without one. Seriously, even the new DSI can’t play videos. Why not? The hardware is capable!

    Why can’t it store games? Oh right, piracy concerns. I will absolutely not carry a ds, a hundred tiny games around with me and a media player, so I’ll stick with my ds lite + supercard thanks.

  2. figsnake12 says:

    I feel the R4 chip is a great advancement, piracy is a good thing – for every 1000 titles that the gov manages to stop, only 1 extra legal puchase IS MADE. The modchip is a brilliant invention.

  3. MrKlorox says:

    I am sick of being told this. People who give this type of advice always tend to either live in a place with high cost of living and therefore have no scope, or are poor and have been fed that advice so many times they are regurgitating it for everybody else. Regardless, it is a bullshit thing to say that will not help anybody.

  4. GusTav2 says:

    Sadly, all the fuss about the ‘legalisation’ of mod chips in the UK was shortlived. The full judgment in the Higgs (Mr Modchips) case showed that modchips are still unlawful in the UK. It was just that the prosecution put forward a bad case in the original trial.

    The R4 would also fall within the prohibtion, as set out in Higgs, as would Datel’s Freeloader. Nintendo have a patchy record about pushing these cases though. Sony have a much more pro-active record when it comes to pushing ELSPA into these cases.

  5. ecco6t9 says:

    If people are complaing about not being to afford games… maybe it’s time for a new hobby?

    You can buy Sudoku Books for about $2.

  6. BrandonL337 says:

    I can help you out with that I have around twenty DS game and I love most of them 

    these are some of my favorites

    New super Mario Bros.

    Sonic Rush. (best Sonic game Ever)

    Super Mario 64 DS.

    Bangai-O Spirits. (chuggy frame rate but still a great game)

    Megaman ZX series

    Contra 4 (not for the faint of heart)

    geometry wars galaxies (weak graphics but incredubly addicting)

    don’t own these but want to they are great i garanty

    Advance wars DS games

    Front mission DS

    Final fantasy A2 (weak story but same great gameplay)

    United we Stand, Divided we fall.

  7. Brokenscope says:

    Or it coyuld be that they haven’t released a decent DS game in a very long while. Poke’mon doesn’t count.

    I’ve had some form of the gameboy/DS since the Gameboy color was released. However, with the advent of the DS,  my handheld game purchases declined signifigantly. I had around 30 gba/gb games. I have 3 DS games.

    My R4(among other things) lets me screw around with embedded programing in a strange structure though… not that I can get anything useful working…. I can make the screen flash!

  8. BrandonL337 says:

    Dude, you actually turned you Xbox into a freaking 360!

    how epic is that?

    United we Stand, Divided we fall.

  9. Zen says:

    I buy my games.  Sometimes to my dismay (point in case Spore where I got burned for buying instead of stealing it) even.  But I don’t see why they want to ban things like this, or actually have sadly banned here in the US, that have a whole side to it that provides more features and a platform for people to develop for.  Yes, there will be people that feel the need to download and play games that they do not own, but why do we always punish the masses for the few?  I modded my original xbox back in the day because I needed something I could play while traveling back and forth from the hospital a few hours away while my daughter was there.  I slapped in a 250GB HDD into it, and then copied over most of my games.  I tossed on a few tv shows and a bunch of music just to top it off.  That mod also enabled me to use the xbox as a media center extender, as well as for streaming feeds from either a PC or the internet.  Funny how many of these additions were or, as in the case of downloading a game to the HDD (mostly), are added to the Xbox360.  They saw what people wanted, and they added it.  Sony saw people doing this with the PSP as well and made some changes.  I had my original PSP modded to play t he games I owned because I was tired of the crappy disc cases breaking with normal use (the clear cover falling in) and rendering my favorite games useless.  So I had the old one modded and had those games put onto a memory card.  Now they are meeting at least half way and letting you purchase full PSP games online, and then download them to your memory stick for on the go.  Same with PS1 games (though I wish they would hurry the heck up with that.  That’s my rant for now, I’ll be back later with some more. 

    Jeremy Powers, aka Zen

  10. Vake Xeacons says:

     I had something like this. It’s called the GBA Movie Player. It plugs into the GBA slot (for both NDS and GBA), plays movies and songs in GBA format, stores jpeg photos, and plays a rough selection of NES emulators. 

    That’s right: the pirated games are NES files. And a few selected ones at that. Oh yeah, that really puts Nintendo at risk.

  11. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I think the R4 is a wonderful idea for consolidating legally owned games. I personally would never use it for piracy.

    But it seems that Nintendo has decided to take the R4 head on with the release of the DSi. This revamp of the DS will have downloadable games for it.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
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  12. Nocturne says:

    I only learnt about it because the conductor on the train mentioned it to me when he saw me playing on my DS, the only other time I’ve come across it is here and news stories like this.

  13. MrKlorox says:

    Perhaps it has to do with location? I don’t know anybody else around here that has heard of such a device before I showed it to them. Then again, I am not exactly near any costal region, so overseas trends don’t make it too far inland quickly. However I have spoken to folks over the net who live in California and they say there are similar devices in independant game shops all over the west coast.

  14. Override367 says:

    I find all the numbers about the R4 highly suspect. Having worked electronics retail for years and seen the monumental DS and DS games sales, and owning a similar device myself – I’ve never run into a coworker or random person who even knew what it was.

    Currently at work I have movies or tv shows playing on my DS and so far not a single person has known what it was but people are always curious how I have videos on my DS.

    Seriously, go ask parents and children if they have an R4, most people aren’t that savvy.

  15. MrKlorox says:

    In the case of the NDS there is no region locking, and in the case of the R4 the "harm" caused would only be to publishers, not your handheld device… unlike that potential with actual mod chips on consoles.

  16. GrimCW says:

    i honestly don’t get this whole mod chip shpeal.

    its like saying Nero is there specifically for me to pirate DVD’s and video games.

    it is NOT, and never was. (for those who don’t know Nero is a handy program for burning CD’s, DVD’s, and backing said material up. it also allows you to burn DVD files to a DVD player readable disc.)

    i don’t mod chip, as it causes more harm than overall good, but i also find region locking shit then sealing games/movies to one area is stupid and annoying.

    companies need to step up and just sell their stuff internationaly and stop licensing them between other companies.

    IMHO its held a lot of good games from the markets outside of the home country of certain games.

    like the A.C.E (Another Century’s Episode) series of games for the PS2. it can’t and won’t make any other markets outside of japan just because of its use of a multitude of various anime mecha (Things from Aura Battler Dunbine, to Gundam 0083, on up through Macross plus) personaly i learned of the games while i was stationed in japan, and i fell in love with it. Ran out after duty on the release day of A.C.E 2 just to grab a copy even, and bought a japanese PS2 just to play it on.

  17. MrKlorox says:

    Exactly. The term "mod chip" implies having to open up the gaming device and place some sort of bypass chip (usually by soldering). The R4 and similar devices just plug into the NDS game slot… no knowledge of electronics required, and no warrenties are voided. That is why they are going mainstream. If it was like modding a console, very few would be interested.

  18. fischju says:

    Technically they are flash carts not mod chips, and knockoff versions are sold through Amazon’s marketplace. 

  19. ZippyDSMlee says:

    The problem is they want to "protect" every kernel of "sand" in their hand and that leads to poor business practices and dispositions, so what if some "steal" from you they are only doing so because its popular if there was not as much fame and profit there would not be any nibbling from the gray sector.

    Nin should embrace it and sell roms and stuff as cheap "one off" downloads that way if its lost it can be easily re bought that would bring a influx of so much profit it would not matter if you have 15-30% not buying in because you just effectively made millions out of nothing!

    I is fuzzy brained mew =^^=
    (in need of a bad overhaul)

  20. VideolandHero says:

    Why doesn’t Nintendo do what Gametap does, where you can pay so much a month and download whatever games you want?

    — Official Protector of Videoland!

  21. sortableturnip says:

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